The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won't open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told from four perspectives over the span of 54 harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
Why I liked it: I couldn't put down This Is Where It Ends. Reading the book was like watching a train wreck and not being able to look away. As someone who was a student when Columbine occurred, the events in the novel were an eerie echo of real events. As a teacher, this book also forces me to consider how safe and prepared my school is, and the actions I might take if faced with a similar situation. I wanted desperately for all of the characters to make it out alive and for the "bad guy" to realize the error of his ways. Unfortunately that's not how things end.
As an adult reader, I found many of the characters to be stereotypical or one-dimensional and some of the plot points predictable, but neither prevented me from finishing the book and would likely go unnoticed by a teen reader.
Classroom application: Because of the obvious themes of violence, I would add this one to a high school classroom library, but likely not a middle school one. The novel would appeal to both male and female students. If students like this book, GoodReads has a list of other books on the topic of school shootings. There are also many nonfiction books on the topic. Here's a list focused just on Columbine.
The author of This Is Where It Ends is a founder of We Need Diverse Books. An interesting exercise would be to have students develop criteria for what makes something a "diverse book." Have students evaluate this book to see if it meets that criteria. Then have them evaluate your classroom library, the school library, or the local library by looking at a random sampling of books. What is overrepresented? What is underrepresented? Student could make a wish list of diverse books to fill some of the gaps they identified.
If you feel that your students are mature enough, discuss your school's plans for situations like this. Make sure they know the difference between a shelter in place and a lockdown. You can show them the Department of Homeland Security's Run, Hide, Fight video, set in an office building, and discuss what would be different in a school setting.
For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:
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